TRENTON – Thomas Rospos, the former executive vice president for Birdsall Services Group, a large Monmouth County-based engineering firm, was indicted today by a state grand jury for his alleged role in a scheme in which the firm fraudulently avoided the restrictions of New Jersey’s Pay-to-Play Act by disguising illegal corporate political contributions as personal contributions of employees of the firm, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced.
On Nov. 30, Philip Angarone, 40, of Hamilton in Mercer County, the former marketing director for Birdsall Services Group, admitted in court that he took part in the scheme, pleading guilty to third-degree tampering with public records or information and fourth-degree prohibited corporation contributions through employees. He faces up to 364 days in jail and a term of probation.
Today, the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau obtained an indictment charging Rospos, 60, of Belmar, the firm’s former executive vice president, with second-degree counts of conspiracy, making false representations for government contracts, misconduct by a corporate official, and money laundering. Each of these counts carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. He was also charged with tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree), prohibited corporation contributions through employees (4th degree), and concealment or misrepresentation of contributions or expenditures (4th degree).
Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Deputy Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Victor R. Salgado presented the case against Rospos to the state grand jury and took the guilty plea from Angarone.
“Mr. Rospos allegedly conspired with others at Birdsall Services Group to circumvent New Jersey’s pay-to-play law through a fraudulent scheme in which extra bonuses were paid to employees to reimburse them for making unreported political contributions,” said Chiesa. “By engaging in this scheme, we allege that they unlawfully bolstered their political connections while continuing to receive public contracts for which they should have been disqualified.”
“We’re continuing our investigation into illegal corporate political contributions made on behalf of Birdsall Services Group,” said Stephen J. Taylor, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Each of these actions we have taken, including this indictment and the recent guilty plea, serve to move our case forward substantially.”
“The allegations outlined in these charges all occurred under previous management at Birdsall Services Group,” said Joseph Hayden Esq., an attorney for the company. “We have been fully cooperating with the Attorney General’s Office throughout the course of this investigation and once we were made aware of potential discrepancies swift action was taken resulting in a new CEO, significant personnel changes, and the hiring of former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali, who will oversee the newly established internal processes to ensure complete compliance going forward.”
Under the scheme to which Angarone admitted, instead of Birdsall Services Group (BSG) making corporate political contributions to campaigns and political organizations that would disqualify it from public contracts awarded by certain government agencies, shareholders and employees of the firm would make personal political contributions of $300 or less, which are deemed unreportable. Multiple personal checks would be bundled together at BSG and sent to the appropriate campaign or political organization. Shareholders and employees would then be illegally reimbursed by BSG in the form of added bonus payments, and the firm would falsely omit the illegally reimbursed contributions in documents filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) and with government agencies that awarded the firm engineering services contracts.
The state investigation revealed that between January 2008 and May 2012, Rospos allegedly made hundreds of purported personal contributions to campaigns and political organizations across the state, both Republican and Democratic, that were illegally reimbursed by BSG. His contributions totaled in excess of $150,000.
Contributor information, including name, address and employer, must be reported to the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) for contributions of more than $300, but such information does not need to be reported for contributions of $300 or less. Every for-profit business entity in New Jersey that has received $50,000 or more in government contracts in a calendar year must file the Business Entity Annual Statement (Form BE) with ELEC to report public contracts that it has received and reportable political contributions that it has made.
Angarone admitted that on the Forms BE filed for BSG, he and others at the firm fraudulently failed to disclose the illegally reimbursed political contributions. In addition, he admitted that in connection with proposals submitted by BSG to receive public contracts, the firm filed numerous false Certifications of Compliance declaring that the firm was in compliance with pay-to-play rules.
The charges against Rospos are merely accusations; he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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